Hani Mohammed / AP

Large explosions from airstrikes rock Yemeni capital

Mushroom clouds rise in the sky in western Sanaa where the capital's largest weapons caches are located

Saudi-led airstrikes on weapons caches in Yemen's rebel-held capital on Monday caused massive explosions that shattered windows, sent residents scrambling for shelter and killed up to 25 people and wounded almost 400 on Monday, state news agency Saba said.

The explosions were the most powerful seen in the city since a Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels began last month. The blasts deposited a layer of soot on the top floors of residential buildings and left the streets littered with glass. Anti-aircraft fire rattled across the city in response.

The number of casualties could not be immediately verified, but medical sources told Reuters at least 15 people had been killed and scores wounded.

Mushroom clouds rose over Fag Atan, in the mountainous outskirts of Sanaa, where the capital's largest weapons caches are located. The site has been targeted several times during the three-week air campaign.

A Yemeni official said the Saudi-led warplanes are demolishing parts of the mountain, hoping to uncover and destroy Scud missiles. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

“This was by far the strongest explosion witnessed in Sanaa so far. Hundreds, if not thousands of homes have been damaged, sending thousands of people to flee the area.” Hakim al-Masmari, the editor-in-chief of Yemen Post, told Al Jazeera.

Masmari said that the weapons depot in Fag Atan was not hit.

“We sent reporters to the scene who confirmed that the strike missed the depot. The impact site was far away from it,” he said.

Some 4 miles away from Fag Atan, cars were damaged and charred, shop fronts were shattered, and the windows were blown out of office buildings.

A Saudi air strike on Sunday has also hit one of Oxfam's warehouses containing humanitarian supplies in Saada, the region controlled by Houthis, the international aid agency said.

“We have shared detailed information with the coalition on the locations of our offices and storage facilities. The contents of the warehouse had no military value. It only contained humanitarian supplies,” said Grace Ommer, Oxfam's country director, in a statement posted on its website Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and allied countries began launching airstrikes on March 26, hoping to push back the rebels, who seized Sanaa in September and have seized control of large parts of the country with the help of security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The air campaign has mostly failed to reverse recent gains by Houthi rebels fighting alongside Yemeni army allies.

Most of Yemen's military is loyal to Saleh, whose forces are fighting alongside Houthi forces in battles stretching across the country's south and east.

Citizens from Hadramawt, Yemen's largest province, which stretches from the coast to the Saudi border, are linked closely to the kingdom by family and historical ties. The remainder of Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen encompasses the northern stronghold of the Houthi rebels.

The leader of Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi militia accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of plotting to seize the country, in a fiery speech suggesting that he was unlikely to compromise despite more than three weeks of Saudi-led bombing.

Saudi Arabia's goal is “the invasion of this country, its occupation and placing this country again under its feet and hegemony,” Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said.

“It's the right of our people to resist the aggression and face the aggressor by any means,” he added.

Western governments and Sunni Arab countries say the Houthis get arms from Iran. Iran and the rebels deny that, though the Islamic Republic has provided political and humanitarian support to the group.

Meanwhile, fighting intensified in the southern port city of Aden, where the Houthis and Saleh loyalists are battling groups loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled the country last month.

The Houthis and their allies have been trying to take over Aden for weeks. On Monday, heavy fighting erupted near the airport and in the central al-Arish district between the Houthis and local armed groups formed by residents to defend their neighborhoods, witnesses said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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